The winter snows had just begun to fall as the caravan that would escort the Shugenja from many lands to the Setsuban festival began, but by the time most of the scrolls and their guardians had been collected, the warmth of both renewed and new-found friendships had warmed considerably.
A small group of Samurai just approaching their prime had formed a close knit group over the course of the journey, sharing stories and companionship, becoming friends. They were an odd combination, the Roguish Wasp Archer, Tsuruchi Kyotan, the taciturn Phoenix Shugenja, Isawa Takimoto, the stoic Crane Yojimbo, Daidoji Jiro, the lovely Unicorn Samurai-Ko, Shinjo Iruko, and the Jovial Kuni Witchhunter, Kuni Kokuri but the bond was all the stronger for that.
The near idyllic journey was interrupted briefly by a night of troubled slumber on the part of the two shugenja, but despite the loss of sleep, no negative effects were suffered. The significance of the dreams has yet to be determined though.
Shortly before the arrival of the caravan at the Shrine for the Ki Rin, the Shinjo caravan master chose to ride ahead, preparing the way. He left the caravan in the charge of the 5 companions, little knowing that their mettle would soon be tested by an ambush of a Ronin force more than twice their number.
It would have succeeded too, if not for the sharp eyes of the Crab and the Wasp, the flight of the Phoenix and the indomitable battle skills of the Crane. Oddly enough though, the Ronin who loosed flights of arrows upon the caravan studiously avoided any loss of life. This fact troubled them at the time, but the need for an expedient retreat overwhelmed all other concerns.
After a breathless arrival of the Shrine, the companions had a short time to rest before they were set to the tasks at hand, namely registering for the upcoming tournament of magic and more pressing matters, namely, the orders that 3 of the 4 samurai men were under to seek out and win the brides their diamyos had chosen.
In the case of the Crab, his bride-to-be had not yet arrived, prompting a deep sigh of relief. He made good use of the time gifted him to attempt to assist his too boon-brothers in their task, as it was a monumental one. Indeed, even the Wasp, no lover of court, let alone courting, was even tempted to give aid, for the Phoenix and the Crane were aimed at none other than the Emperor’s niece herself, Otomo Iroshuro. Luckily, at least to the archer’s thinking, he was “distracted” by the peerless beauty of Yogo Amia, and was not forced to take part in the grass-court of the Otomo girl.
Through brash maneuvering, the rivals to the Crane and Phoenix were removed for the time being, and the Phoenix celebrated this small victory by gaining ground through a show of skill in both flute and sorcery. The companions were not to be allowed any rest in which to enjoy their triumph though, as they were summoned to the Shinjo Daimyo with startling news.
It appeared that the ambush had NOT been as successfully thwarted as they had though, for in the chaos, an invisible hand had set the prize-scrolls guardian to slumber and absconded with the scrolls themselves. The samurai would not stand for this, and left immediately to track down the thief.
They traveled to a secluded, but nearby village of ronin known as the Nightengale’s Roost. There they confronted the headman Neiben who had been wounded in the battle, and he summoned the Ronin Shugenja Kohen. Kohen had stolen the scrolls as retribution against the Lord of Gisu castle, Asako Kagetsu. The Asako had apparently reneged on his promise to let Koan participate in the tournament of magics on questionable grounds, and Kohen decided to show his mettle in another way. Agreeing to support Koan’s claims, the companions retrieved the scrolls and returned them to the tournament grounds before any but the Shinjo caravan master and the bumbling Unicorn Shugenja were any the wiser.
The companions are flush with their streak of victories, but before them lie many challenges, both in love and magical prowess.